Okay, okay–so this isn’t the most exciting or dynamic blog post to come back into the flow. It is, however, extremely relevant for me right now. During this time when staying at home is helpful to both myself and to everyone else, I’ve have a lot of time to reflect on the way I’m living. My friends and family are all going through their own levels of life changes, whether it be with job situations or just the realization that they are better made for a more extraverted lifestyle. For myself–and living by myself–it has been an opportunity to look…
I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for years, one of my greatest goals in life was to have long natural hair.
In October of 2010, I received my last relaxer ever. I remember that day, because it was also the day that my (perceived) love of my life married someone else. As a jilted ex-lover usually is, I was devastated, shattered. But I was mainly frustrated and exhausted at myself.
Sitting in the parking lot of the salon, waiting for my hairdresser to arrive, I looked back at all the time I had wasted believing myself to be not only a victim in some silly romantic drama, but also a contender. Surely, he loved me! Surely, it was just a matter of time before he would realize the truth–that I was the one for him and he should call off the wedding on my behalf!
I know. I know.
In that lot, I forced myself to come to terms with reality: I had allowed myself to be a pathetic toy, a fun distraction. I had disrespected myself into a silly delusion.
I hated that self. And I didn’t want to resemble that self anymore.
Over the months, I had been lingering more and more on whether I should go natural. That moment of resolve cinched that decision.
With my last relaxer would die the old B. With the new B would come confidence, self-respect, and super healthy, super long natural hair.
It took about six months to grow out my last relaxer, but by May of 2011, I was more than ready to slice it all away. I big-chopped while visiting my sister in Arizona and never once regretted it.
Fast Forward to June 2018
“I think I’m gonna cut my hair.”
I said this aloud as I walked with coworkers from our cafeteria back to the office.
One of my coworkers, a beautiful black woman with her own natural hair in ringlets to her back, turned to stare at me. “Where’d that come from?”
I thought about it. Though we had just passed some random person with a pixie cut, the decision seemed to come from a much deeper spot within my core. Unfortunately, it seemed too existential to explain in the middle of a corporate campus. “I don’t know,” I said instead, and veered the topic back to standard office gossip.
I’d always told myself that, as I aged, I would probably resume managing my hair in an extremely short style. I just hadn’t realized that “age” had arrived so much sooner than I’d expected.
After my BC in 2011, I maintained my hair in a super short style for at least 3 years. In fact, the only reason I started stretching it out was because it started knotting on itself.
It’s been eight years since I started growing out my natural hair. Over the last 3 years, my hair has refused to grow past my bra strap. I’ve tried to be patient with it, avoiding direct heat and playing with temporary, veggie-based hair dyes to assuage my desires to creatively mutilate it. This last year has been especially painful, as I’ve attempted to be dutiful and find the right protective styles that would encourage the long natural hair that I aspired to:
- At least half an hour to prep it before wash.
- An hour and a half to wash and deep condition it.
- Upwards of two hours to style-set it.
- And then there’s daily maintenance of re-setting it every night before bed.
Long natural curly hair is not just a beauty step. It’s a beauty lifestyle.
Long Natural Hair = The Ultimate Female Beauty
I think everyone has suffered from a desire to reinvent themselves at least once. The popularity of fad diets, bold and impossible-in-nature hair colors, and fashion trends are a testimony to that. People want their outsides to reflect what they currently feel, or how they want to feel.
I’ve always had an idealized mental image of myself. As a child, it was as the lost Black Sailor Moon (well, Sailor Mars, actually. She had magic psychic abilities even when she wasn’t in costume). As an adolescent, it was a cross between USA’s La Femme Nikita, Barb Wire, and The Matrix (aka, a shiny black catsuit-wearing badass). As an adult, it was a bohemian renaissance woman with sexy face paint, wooden jewelry, harem pants, and an alluring nose piercing.
And do you know what they all had in common?
As I do when I wonder what the rest of the world is thinking (and are they still thinking what I assume they’re thinking), I performed a random Google search to see what is still deemed “beautiful.”
I clicked on two of the top articles. In the first article, it only took me a second to find the following statement:
The preference for smooth skin and long hair [my emphasis] comes down through the ages with adjectives such as alabaster, milky, and creamy being used when describing someone’s complexion.
(Yes, I could go on and on about the alabaster, milky skin, but let’s save that particular observation for another post, shall we? 🙄)
In the second article, the author covers what different cultures around the world consider beautiful. I’m going to assume she neglected to note what African cultures consider beautiful because, not only did she forget Africa is in the world, she is also severely limited in experience, research capability, and journalistic non-bias and wouldn’t know where to start with the multiple aspects that make African and African-descended women beautiful…but anyway…
One thing that I did notice before I read her article, were the pictures in her article. In every single pic, long, thick hair is highlighted. It’s blowing in the wind. It’s draped over the model’s shoulder. The woman is playing with it. Even if she didn’t say it outright (and yes, she does), it’s obvious what she deemed vital as a part of classic female beauty.
Finding that these results supported my original assumptions, I grew annoyed.
Then, I grew mad.
And, as it usually does when I feel like passively rebelling against the system, it temporarily made me want to re-chop off all my hair down to the very root.
“So I’m only beautiful if I’ve got long, luxurious locks, huh?” I snap, electric razor buzzing in my hand. “Well, then I bet you’ll love this!”
Of course, shaving my head won’t resolve anything. Somewhere along the journey into my 30s, my goal stopped being about conforming to European, American, Korean, African, male, ageist aspects of beauty. Instead, it has because more of…feeling like myself.
Below you is the puzzle of your life. There is a missing puzzle piece that represents how you identify yourself in this crazy world. You’ve held that puzzle piece in your hand for years. You know where it goes, but you’ve been working on how to make it fit just right.
You carve a little here, paint a little there. You turn it this way, that way. You’re getting close. Soon, it will fit.
I believe we should all go through life being comfortable in our selves. The only way we can get comfortable is to listen to what we really want. That may include getting a tattoo, or a piercing. It may include wearing corduroy dresses. Whatever it is, it should make you smile, feel proud to be yourself.
I always wanted long hair because I wanted to be seen as pretty, desirable. I thought it would make me the ultimate woman. I was willing to put in the time and the effort to gain those results.
But now, as I expand my passions and meet quality friends and colleagues, I’m realizing that the state of my hair will reflect the happiness I feel naturally. If I’m happy, my body will show it. Maybe not with excessive hair growth, but with thickness, vibrancy, and shine. And I’d certainly rather have short, shiny, healthy locks than thin, straggly, heat-damaged strands dangling down to my butt.
So, if the length sneaks up on my hair, so be it. But I’m no longer going to seek it out.
What look or style makes you, you? What makes you feel the most like yourself?
One thing that has always eluded me is the ability to grow my hair past my shoulders. While this may not be a big deal to most, it’s something that I’ve never experienced my entire life. Due to poor maintenance, heat damage, and chemical damage, my hair has never been a pretty picture. Ever since I stopped getting relaxers and began growing my hair naturally, I’ve experienced health and growth that I have never seen before. My hair is, as of this post, about an inch above my bra strap—and shockingly, it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. I’ve already…
I’m proud to say that I’m slowly finding my way in this blogging journey. I have managed to narrow my topics down to three fields: Writing Taekwondo Beauty This seems to be working for now, so I’ll just rotate amongst them unless something severe seizes me. Like a video game. Or a WWE Superstar who wants to randomly fly me to New Zealand for an extended vacation. …I’m sorry; what were we discussing? Ah, yes – blog topics. Next in rotation is a discussion on beauty, which leads me to one of the biggest blessing and banes of woman’s existence….
That means that it’s time for my morning Ayurvedic hair care regimen.
As I am furiously getting back on track with this blog, I realized that I should be a little more informative when I write my posts. That means I should probably explain a little of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
Which means I should probably learn it myself. Hmm.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda translates to “the knowledge for long life” and is both a traditional and alternative medicine in India. (Thank you, Wiki!)
Different levels of Ayurveda have been used for centuries in health, beauty and even spiritual enlightenment. By emphasizing the use of herbs and oils to purify the body and the mind, an individual can supposedly emerge cleansed, clear minded and void of many diseases.
And here I was just trying to grow my hair super fast.
Years ago, after sulfate shampoos lathered my relaxed hair down to nothing, I decided to look into safer methods of cleaning my hair and getting the same results – well, better ones. I lurked through multiple online hair care forums, both general and African American-focused, and discovered that a lot of women were going “mud-based” in their shampoos. That is, they were completely avoiding lathering shampoos and taking an approach that included mixing their own products with powders derived from herbs.
I found recipes, descriptions, and results. Real results. Amazing results. Exciting results.
“My hair is growing like crazy!” one post would say. “My hair has never been this healthy,” another added. “It’s so soft and defined now.” Whatever negative comments I saw, there were 10 or 20 replies to soothe the original naysayer and offer advice on how to fix the human error.
In 2008, I decided to give it a whirl. I bought a box of Brahmi powder, mixed it with tap water, slathered it on my relaxed head and washed it out. Then, I rushed to the mirror to be amazed.
I wasn’t. My hair was dry, stuck together and even a touch crisper than I remembered.
I, in all of my melodramatic form, was devastated. I shoved the box to the back of my closet and returned to my sulfate shampoos, pledging repentance and promising never to stray again.
Fast forward to today. It’s been about a year since I cut off my relaxed hair and returned to my natural roots – literally and figuratively. Since that time, I also returned to my Ayurvedic research and discovered just how poorly informed I was originally. A lot of factors played into my lackluster (no pun intended) results four years ago:
- My relaxed hair was already damaged beyond repair, and there was little I could do to reverse that.
- The type of powder I’d chosen is usually mixed with other Ayurvedic powders to – that’s right! – ease its drying effects many people experience.
- My use of tap water, though not bad, was ill prepared and would not give an optimum outcome.
With this in mind, I judiciously recovered from my mistakes and learned about other Ayurvedic products, techniques and practices that originated with the Indian culture centuries ago and has since been personalized by nationalities across the globe.
I could go on and on about every item I have found and tested on myself, but I will keep this post relatively short for today – especially since I still have my durn novel to write and my hair to finish washing. What I will give is the recipe that I am using today, which is also one of my favorites.
Ingredients (pictured above):
- 6 parts Hesh brand Shikakai powder
- 4 parts Hesh brand Amla powder
- 2 ½ parts Hesh brand Tulsi powder
- Distilled water
- A splash of Dabur Vatika coconut oil
- A splash of Dabur Rose Water
Shikakai powder, like Brahmi powder, is considered a “shampoo” and works to suck up excessive dirt and oil without drying the hair or scalp. It’s also a natural detangler.
Amla powder is one of the most common “conditioning” powders and is listed as halting premature greying, promoting hair growth and strengthening hair roots. (The stopping grey hairs is freakin’ true. I wished I’d kept the proof.)
Tulsi powder is also a “conditioning” powder and maintains moisture on the scalp while assisting with the control of dandruff.
Since distilled water is so…distilled, I’ve decided to apply it instead of tap water, allowing the minerals in the powders to take over instead.
The coconut oil and rose water both have softening and nutritional benefits and were added as an afterthought – and they just smell so nice.
- I scoop the powders into a glass bowl and blend them together.
- Then, I add distilled water and mix until I have a consistency of yogurt:
- Once it’s mixed, I pour in a little coconut oil and a little rose water and stir/whisk until smooth (You definitely don’t want to add too much oil, or you’ll end up with a mixture that breaks up and proves the “water and oil” adage just right.)
- I part my hair and apply directly to the scalp, massaging the paste along the strands as I work my fingers out.
- I add the remaining paste to my hair tips and, after one more massage for good measure, I put a plastic cap over my head and allow it to marinate. It only needs about 10 – 15 minutes, but I usually let it go for an hour while I work around the apartment.
- After that, I rinse it out in the shower until the water runs clear. I apply a cheap, $3 conditioner as a method to scrub my hair and rinse out any particles I missed on the first go.
- If my hair feels like it needs it, I go for a deep conditioning that lasts approximately half an hour (including a 15-minute steam treatment).
- After the final rinse, I apply a leave-in detangler and homemade shea butter cream that I mixed with a few oils (namely castor oil and coconut oil) to my scalp and hair, work my “curlies” with my fingers in the mirror for a few minutes, and leave it at that.
I can almost hear the astonishment: “Holy crud; that’s a lot of time.”
You’re durn right, it is! The whole process can take up to four hours if I’m feeling especially languid
One thing I’ve learned over the adventure with my hair is, I don’t have to manipulate my hair or use a lot of products to get it healthy and growing. Some days, I don’t have any time and end up doing a goat’s milk soap shampoo and quick conditioning before smearing in a glob of shea butter and hoping for the best. That lasts less than an hour.
However, on the days when I do have time, I like and prefer the Ayurvedic approach. For me, it’s just another part of my Sunday Pamper Time – and we should all, I think, take time out for ourselves.
Freshly rinsed, no product. I love Pamper Time.